New reporter in town

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By: Joe King

If you’re a keen reader of the LaFollette Press, you may have noticed a new byline attached to a few of the articles in this fine publication.

I’m pleased to tell you that byline is mine and it means I’m the new reporter in town.

So, without further ado, let me tell you a little bit about myself.

I was born in Upstate New York and named after my father because we apparently look similar (a curse we have both handled with grace).

When I was in eighth grade my family said goodbye to the lakefront snow that filled the valleys of the Adirondacks and moved to Knoxille due to a job opportunity my mother accepted with Pilot’s corporate office.

In Knoxville I was quite the charmer (despite my looks) and after completing high school, tried to become a professional musician, much to the dismay of my callused-covered hands.

I set my sights on this goal for a while, and even ended up as a bassist for a band that did a small tour on the east coast.

However, after bathing in laundromat bathrooms and eating canned Spaghetti-Os night after night, my fire for this lifestyle began to burn out.

Then I came up with a new plan. I was going to be an accountant. After one semester I changed my major to marketing, and then went back to music before giving up on college altogether.

But I tried again, mostly because I didn’t like any of the jobs that were available to me without a college degree.

The trouble was I had to do something I was going to be passionate about, and I was just too darn ugly to be a musician.

While battling this existential plight, I happened to be reading a lot of Dostoevsky, and suddenly it occurred to me: I was going to be a writer.

I began at Pellissippi State, a local community college. There I had the good fortune to learn from Writer-in-Residence Edward Francisco.

After two years, I moved on to the University of Tennessee where I again had some good fortune, this time studying fiction with another writer-in-residence, Allen Wier.

I also lucked out at UT in the poetry department, as I was able to study under poet Jessie Janeshek.

So I wrote, read and even graduated with Cum Laude status in a reasonable time.

But what does all of this have to do with writing the news? We’re getting there.

After college, I had a difficult time finding a writing job to pay the bills. I worked on a novel and a poetry collection, but, as you know, rent waits for no man.

At one point I considered moving to Los Angeles, Calif., just like John Fante, one of my favorite writers, did when he started out nearly 100 years ago.

Then the night I had literally relinquished the rights to my rented room, I saw a job posting for a reporter at the Seymour Herald.

I applied for the job and was hired for two days a week.

At the Herald, I worked vigorously to learn as much as I could about the newspaper industry.

The publisher of the Herald, Joe Karl, was great about showing me the ropes. I learned all of the key factors about news writing and soon I was developing articles at a rapid pace. Covering a variety of topics, I gained a wide range of writing experience.

The Herald publisher noticed this and rewarded me with a pay raise, additional hours and a promotion to editor.

The augmentation of my writing experience also gave me that little extra pep I needed to complete my novel and a collection of poetry, both of which have now been accepted for publication by Sarah Book Publishing.

The poetry book, “Human Ants,” is due out by the end of the month, so be sure to pick-up a copy (shameless self-promotion, I know, but you do it when you can).

When I moved up at the Herald, I knew I wanted to have a future in newspapers. To have this future eventually I was going to have to move up to a larger paper. And this is where LaFollette Press comes in.

The Press had an opening for a reporter. I applied, and was hired.

I’m happy to be here and look forward to contributing to this well-reputed newspaper.

Now that you know a little bit about me, it’s back to writing the news.

Joe King is a Reporter at the LaFollette Press. Email him at jpking@lafollettepress.com